Thursday, 16 July 2009

British Library & Conservation

Today, we had a tour of the British Library with Stephen Sanford. This is a repository library, so copy of every book published in the UK is deposited in the British Library, and the Library grows 12.5 km every year. Most of its books are in storage. There is a mechanized book transfer system in the library that helps move the books from their location to the patron. The British Library is a research library and not a lending library. In a display case, we saw the largest atlas containing maps all over the world and depicting CA as an island. Measuring 6 meters in length, it takes two people to open it and one person to flip its pages. Inside the Library, there is a tower of books surround by glass. These 90,000 volumes were donated by King George III, and it was upon his wishes that they be made accessible to the public. What a nice guy!

In a special exhibit at the British Library, we saw conserved texts of Virginia Wolf, Sylvia Plath, John Milton, and Jane Austen, along lyrics from the Beatles, Shakespeare plays, bibles, and books with ornate bindings. Another exhibit featured the Codex Sinaticus, one of the two earliest Christian Bibles in Greek, which had been pieced together and digitized. Around the Library, there were works of art such as this book bench and this optical illusion of 3D bookshelves. This art is very bookish!

We were given a tour of the conservation studio at the British Library. We were show books and other items that ware old and needed to be repaired. It was really interesting to hear the techniques described and see some of the projects the conservators were working on. One project involved a collection of Beatrix Potter books. Each project required many hours of labor, and each hour was carefully documented. The studio was very neat and clean. I almost wanted to start repairing books. Image courtesy of

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